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Digital Transformation | 14 MIN READ

The Heroes You Need for a Successful Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword now. Technology is changing, and with it, the way we do business. Even the Pringles people have had to adjust to new technologies in order to be more efficient.

Jump to the main takeaways:

 Digital Transformation Done by Committee
 The CEO's Validation Role
 The CTO and Change Management
 The CIO and Adoption Enablement
 The Blueprint for HR's Role
 Digital Transformation: What it is


When moving from the old way of doing things to a completely new business paradigm, every business will come across challenges for which there are proven solutions.

In order to affect positive change and create a fast-moving, digitally transformed business that is focused on productivity, you’ll need some key individuals with a particular set of skills. These will be the leaders that help you to achieve digital transformation.

It’s not always simple, but with the right team and a well planned-out strategy, it can be a lot easier than it often is.

In this post, we’ll look at an example of how a major university was able to affect positive digital change across a wide range of departments by making sure that everyone got involved.

From there, we’ll look at some of the roles that businesses might need to help them through their digital transformation, and how they’ll help to direct change.


Digital Transformation Done by Committee

When a major research university undertook a massive digital transformation, they made sure to involve members from every team affected, and kept trying different things until they got it right.

Before we look at the roles that will be critical to your digital transformation, let’s take a look at a real-life example of a successful execution of change, and the process that helped make it happen.

A major university needed to make a change from their old way of doing things. The change they were going through was far from insignificant.

The goal was to transform more than 100 support teams who were all managing different areas of support. At the beginning, they all managed support through shared mailboxes and spreadsheets. It was definitely time for a change.

In order to better manage support, the university’s Chief IT Architect set about creating a single source of truth for all support teams, in which they would be able to manage support tickets more efficiently.

This was incredibly important, as tickets were often misrouted, creating a massive backlog of service issues.

The teams started their transformation by implementing an extensive service catalog, an asset database (CMDB), a customer database, and an HR database in Jira.

To really get organized, they began using Insight in order to visually lay out multiple service catalogs where they were able to visualize the mixture of processes and services that people are familiar with.

Once the CMDB was in place and they were able to visualize the above processes, the support teams were able to get out of their silos and start working in the same space with the same processes. This, however, presented a unique challenge on its own.

Not everyone accepted the processes from the beginning—they did not believe that every team should be using the same solution. Not only that, but many of the teams were not actually IT teams, which meant they would need to be comfortable with a digital ecosystem that was meant for IT teams.

The desired resolutions and principle requirements from team to team were quite different, as were the processes behind them.

In order to make sure that everyone was happy with the new support tool, a council of sorts was formed. They added voting members from each of the teams, which allowed each of them to express their concerns, which allowed change to be made by committee.

This part of the process really allowed each of the teams to be heard, and to ensure that everyone was able to make their digital transformation in the manner that best suited that particular team. It also allowed teams to share ideas with each other, which strengthened the overall performance of all of the teams.

The university is now able to operate with a “single, cost-effective system that integrates all of their decentralized service desks in a seamless ITIL-compliant environment.”

And more than just being satisfied with their digital transformation, the combined efforts of each of the teams combined to reduce service tickets that had been sent to the wrong team by 80%!

So, we can see how digital transformation relies on everyone to be involved. More than just change for the sake of change, it really needs to create value for everyone involved. And in order to do that, it’s imperative that everyone be involved 

Along the way, we find that there are a few key roles that can help to shape the overall digital transformation of businesses. Let’s take a look at a few of them and get familiar with how they can affect positive digital change.


The Role of the CEO in Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is not a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of operation. In order for your entire company to begin adopting massive—or even incremental—change over any period of time, a CEO needs to demonstrate that transformation is as important to them as it is to everyone else.

The CEO needs to be on the front lines of demonstrating that change is possible, and that it is going to make everyone’s life better within the organization.

From the very start, it’s important that the CEO be involved in assigning a real purpose for digital transformation. McKinsey describes the objectives that lie at the heart of digital change:

“Almost every notable digital innovation we’ve seen has been based on using connectivity and data to transform the customer experience or to reshape products and services by allowing customers to interact with them in new ways.”

And so, it’s not always about the speed at which changes happen, but about why they’re happening. Once businesses understand this and see that the CEO is leading the charge, it will ensure that everyone else is inspired to make the changes necessary for success now, as well as in the future.

Digital innovation is near maximum velocity already. At this point, 90% of global businesses have initiated digital transformation in one way or another, according to a study done by Forbes.

In order to grow, businesses need to find new markets, and that’s the reason almost half of the executives cited in the study above are moving towards digital transformation.

The need to stay relevant and explore new markets drives everyone at the top of a business but without the means of communicating the necessity, the whole process can be dead on arrival.

According to Fallsdigital:

“CEO attitude flavors the entire corporation. When making this kind of a massive shift, it’s important to stay positive and to communicate the benefits to everyone involved [...] Innovation powers digital transformation, but an affirmative, confident CEO can navigate change in a way that brings every individual along for the ride.”

While the materials used to build the ship may change, and the navigation may change from a giant wheel to a joystick, the CEO is still the one deciding where the ship is headed. It’s important that the crew is both ready and eager to change for the better!


How the CTO Manages Company-Wide Change

As digital transformation starts to change companies, the roles that accompany that change have started to expand, as well.

Where the CEO is at the head of company-wide interest in adoption, the Chief Transformation Officer (CTO) is the person you need to take that vision and turn it into reality. A kind of project manager, the CTO “facilitates a connected approach to transformation, taking into account the highly networked nature of organizations.”

The job is to combine the company’s assets (people, data, and infrastructure), and ensure that they’re linked in such a way as to ensure that they’re ready for execution. Things to consider here are go-to-market models, how the business is engaged with change, and how the entire operation is organized to accommodate change.

From there, it’s up to the CTO to ‘mobilize the troops’ to see change all the way through to transformation across the whole of the business’ interests and operations.

However, it can be easy to take change too far. The hardest part is to change just enough. Of course, we all want to be future proof, but at some point, the CTO is in charge of saying, “This is what the customer needs, and that’s what we’re going to give them. 

The point is that it all has to create value. We saw this in the example of the university, where not everyone believed they were getting what they needed at the beginning. It was through the careful application of team involvement that they were able to create value for everyone involved.

There is no reason to be overly disruptive without creating value. There are myriad examples of companies whose digital transformations have failed because either the industry wasn’t ready, or management did not make the investment in the foundational investments in skills, projects, and infrastructure to make it happen properly.

Remember when Procter & Gamble set out to become the world’s most digital company back in 2012? A sour economy rained all over that particular parade. Nike had to halve their digital unit in 2014 when they ended the Nike+ Fuelband program. And even Lego has let go of its Digital Designer virtual building program.

So, the CTO needs to ensure that these digital investments are in sync with the readiness of your industry—digital transformation must be hardwired to value.

There can be a tendency to get excited about new technology. Businesses can go overboard quickly if they’re not considering the need for exploration before the entire scope of digital transformation can be assessed, understood, and embraced.

As William Riker, First Officer of the Startship Enterprise might say, “The unexpected is our normal routine.” The CTO, as a kind of second-in-command, (or Number Two for the purposes of keeping the analogy going) stands at the helm of disruption, keeping all team members working in concert with each other and towards a common goal.

It’s really about creating an environment where people can grow and lead. Because you’ll need other leaders to help you create a holistic digital transformation scheme. The proof is right there in the example we used at the beginning.


The Critical role of the CIO in Enabling Adoption

In the midst of all this change, there will need to be someone to lead the technical aspect of this operation. And the entire team will need to be on board.

Someone has to shelve the legacy systems while still helping everyone else move forward. When all is said and done, it’s the IT department that will continue on down this path once change happens.

This article in CIO magazine lists a few reasons why it can be difficult for IT to be involved.

  • Company’s overall lack of interest and/or respect for the use of technology, therefore, seeing IT as a necessary evil rather than a competitive weapon
  • The C-Suite’s lack of respect for CIO or IT in general
  • Technical issues causing the organization to lose confidence in IT
  • Members within the C-Suite, such as the head of Marketing or Sales, who for business or political reasons would rather have full control of the DX activities affecting their area of responsibility

This, despite the fact that IT’s involvement in digital transformation seems not just intuitive, but altogether necessary.

Conversely, the CIO might want to leave digital transformation up to different groups for the following reasons:

  • IT may be materially underfunded and doesn’t have the time to participate
  • The CIO and/or senior IT team are not professionally interested in participating in DX related activities and feels it’s best to be performed within the business areas
  • The staff within IT are production oriented, rather than innovative or business-oriented by nature and as a result, have no real interest in becoming involved.

But the reality is that IT is the group that is going to be involved, not just in transformation, but in maintaining and scaling the company’s newly formed digital strategies now, and going forward.

The article goes on to say that IT can no longer risk being seen as just experts in technology. It is imperative that this group be seen as a group of “business people who have a strong understanding of technology.”

It will be the CIO’s job to transform their IT department into this new paradigm, and shift people’s attention away from old attitudes about IT professionals.

David Rabin is a Digital Transformation Expert and VP of Global Commercial Marketing at Lenovo. He believes strongly in this new role of the CIO. In an interview with CMS Wire, he says:

“Where other business units are leading the charge by putting new requirements on IT, it’s IT’s job to have the answers and be able to integrate new tools into their business. Specific to a digital workforce, executives and managers are recognizing that technology has enabled workers to live and work anywhere.”

The same article goes on to expand on the necessity of IT departments to have a holistic understanding of the tools that are available to “facilitate a collaborative environment,” and to clear the way for digital transformation.

In our university example, The Chief IT architect was key to discovering “how their IT teams operated and connected with other departments within the educational institution.”

Establishing new guidelines for governance was imperative to the success of the transformation. In addition, they established an ITSM organizational structure that included members of the IT team. 

As you’ll recall, they created a kind of council with members from each team represented in order to generate consensus and foster inclusion.

This allowed them to create a more cohesive team, all working towards the same goal: supporting the digital transformation of the entire company.

The CIO must get their team on board. They must change the structure of how their IT teams work and what they’re delivering.

IT is no longer just a service provider for the company. IT is now a huge part of how the business delivers its products or services, and the CIO will lead the way towards those teams getting on board.


The Blueprint for HR’s role in Change Management

The way that we manage workforces is changing at the same rate as businesses are transforming digitally. Employees have different sets of needs and desires. There are multiple generations working together, and they all have different levels of understanding of culture and digital tools.

As we start to transform digitally, HR pros—or people and culture coordinators— are attempting to optimize this situation to reap the full benefits of the new paradigm, while also managing relationships across generations, departments, and teams. 

What the best HR leaders understand is that digital transformation is workforce transformation. It’s like you’re switching from coal to solar. Some people might not like that change. But HR is going to have to lead the charge on helping people to understand the need for change. And then they’re going to have to help them achieve that change.

The CEO might set the tone for the cultural transformation that takes place as workplaces transform digitally, but the HR department must make sure that everyone has ‘gotten the memo’ and that they all have the information that they need to be successful.

This article by Business Improvement Architects states that there are three things that HR departments can do to foster innovation:

  • Hire for innovation
  • Create a culture of innovation
  • Train and reward for innovation

In terms of hiring for innovation, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re hiring people who already know everything about all new technologies. Mostly because, well, that would be impossible, wouldn’t it?

The goal is to recruit for innovation capability. The article goes on to say that you should be asking questions about their inquisitiveness, and whether or not they’re open to new ideas and concepts.

One of the examples they use as a company that’s doing this well is Intuit, the makers of Quicken:

“Intuit […] ensures their culture is sustained through their ring process by making sure that every new employee understands their “Customer Evangelist Culture” that has resulted in tremendous customer loyalty and market share growth.”

And as to training for rewards and innovation, Jim Ludema and Amber Johnson speak not just to rewarding and recognizing innovative behavior, but also risk taking—even when the results might not be positive.

The lynchpin is constant feedback. It should be constructive, and overall, it must be supportive.

It’s also worth remembering that not everyone has the same experience with technology. And especially in companies that have older workers, change can sometimes be daunting.

That said, there are still members of Gen X in the workforce who are not just tech-savvy, but highly competent, as well.

According to one study, they “possess traits of high adaptability, problem-solving skills, collaboration and team skills, making them the core essence of any functioning organization.”

As to rewards, the same article states that the best time to reward them is soon after a reward-worthy accomplishment. “They do not trust future promises of rewards.

Not entirely different from millennials who also crave work-life balance (flexibility). More than anything else, though, promotion in recognition of a job well done is top of mind for the younger generation.

So all of your team members will be different, and it’s up to the HR department to ensure that everyone’s expectations are being met while, at the same time, helping them to meet the expectations of the business through careful considerations towards culture, training, and appropriate rewards.


Recap: Digital Transformation – What it is (and is Not)

Digital transformation is not just about technology. It’s really about change. It’s about changing the culture of the company and openly encouraging and supporting every person in the company in the new direction.

Digital transformation isn’t about single departments or individual software installations. It’s not iPhones and laptops and VPNs. It’s company-wide adoption of an entirely new paradigm that is embraced by all for the good of the entire operation.

Lastly, digital transformation can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Take the advice of those who’ve been there before, and make the best use of the four experts along with all of your other talent within the company, and you’ll feel like you just had a little snooze wrapped in a warm cocoon as your business emerges into a butterfly. Or, at the very least, into a high-functioning, energetic, and productive business machine.

A valuable sidekick that can help you throughout your digital transformation process is Insight. Working in tandem with your Jira environment, it allows you to manage your organizational assets and promote long-term growth through a sustainable ITSM practice. Find out more today!

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Originally published May 31, 2019 7:00:00 AM